Jerusalem District Court Judge Nava Ben-Or has accepted the petition of 55 doctors from East Jerusalem who studied medicine at Al-Quds University, and has ordered the Health Ministry to allow them to take physician licensing exams.
The doctors have been fighting the Health Ministry for almost five years. The Health Ministry’s has cited the fact that the Council for Higher Education, at the behest of diplomatic figures, has refused to recognize the Palestinian university as a foreign university, even though some of Al-Quds University’s activities take place in East Jerusalem, which is sovereign Israeli territory.
Justice Noam Sohlberg, who rejected the doctors’ petition the last time around, wrote then “there is no justification for a sovereign state to recognize a university as a foreign school if some of its activities take place in that state’s capital.”
The Health Ministry, with encouragement from the Prime Minister’s Office, refused to recognize the doctors, despite the severe lack of physicians in East Jerusalem hospitals and the fact that the Al-Quds University medical school is considered high-quality. Proof of this lies in the fact that the last time Al-Quds alumni were allowed to take the licensing exam, they scored higher than students from all other foreign universities. Some of the 55 doctors have also passed United States licensing exams, meaning they are not required to take the Israeli exams and can begin practicing.
Due to the refusal, Al-Quds University entered into talks with the Council for Higher Education in order to split the university into its wings that function in PA territory, including the medical school, so that they could be recognized as a foreign university. The previous petition, which reached the Supreme Court, resulted in an order for the council to make a decision on the status of Al-Quds University by January 1, 2013.
Ben-Or ruled that the council’s delay has made the situation unreasonable, and the petitioners “have fallen between the cracks and are unable to practice the profession they’ve obtained.”
“The Health Ministry fell subject to a political move,” said attorney Shlomo Lecker, who filed the petition. “It seems the Israeli government is interested shutting down Al-Quds University in Jerusalem, and the petitioners were used as hostages to that end. All this while harming public health and the right of some 60 doctors to practice medicine.”
In response, the Health Ministry stated “we will study the court ruling and respond appropriately.”